Contact networks in a wildlife-livestock host community: identifying high-risk individuals in the transmission of bovine TB among badgers and cattle

M Bohm, MR Hutchings, PCL White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The management of many pathogens, which are of concern to humans and their livestock, is complicated by the pathogens’ ability to cross-infect multiple host species, including wildlife. This has major implications for the management of such diseases, since the dynamics of infection are dependent on the rates of both intra- and inter-specific transmission. However, the difficulty of studying transmission networks in free-living populations means that the relative opportunities for intra- versus inter-specific disease transmission have not previously been demonstrated empirically within any wildlife-livestock disease system. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using recently-developed proximity data loggers, we quantify both intra-and interspecific contacts in a wildlife-livestock disease system, using bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers and cattle in the UK as our example. We assess the connectedness of individuals within the networks in order to identify whether there are certain ‘high-risk’ individuals or groups of individuals for disease transmission within and between species. Our results show that contact patterns in both badger and cattle populations vary widely, both between individuals and over time. We recorded only infrequent interactions between badger social groups, although all badgers fitted with data loggers were involved in these inter-group contacts. Contacts between badgers and cattle occurred more frequently than contacts between different badger groups. Moreover, these inter-specific contacts involved those individual cows, which were highly connected within the cattle herd. Conclusions/Significance: This work represents the first continuous time record of wildlife-host contacts for any free-living wildlife-livestock disease system. The results highlight the existence of specific individuals with relatively high contact rates in both livestock and wildlife populations, which have the potential to act as hubs in the spread of disease through complex contact networks. Targeting testing or preventive measures at high-contact groups and individuals within livestock populations would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of disease management strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume4(4)
Issue numbere5016
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 2009

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badgers
wildlife
livestock diseases
livestock
cattle
disease transmission
bovine tuberculosis
pathogens
disease control
herds
cows
infection
testing

Keywords

  • Badgers
  • Cattle
  • Farms
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Infectious disease control
  • Livestock
  • Veterinary diseases
  • Wildlife

Cite this

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title = "Contact networks in a wildlife-livestock host community: identifying high-risk individuals in the transmission of bovine TB among badgers and cattle",
abstract = "Background: The management of many pathogens, which are of concern to humans and their livestock, is complicated by the pathogens’ ability to cross-infect multiple host species, including wildlife. This has major implications for the management of such diseases, since the dynamics of infection are dependent on the rates of both intra- and inter-specific transmission. However, the difficulty of studying transmission networks in free-living populations means that the relative opportunities for intra- versus inter-specific disease transmission have not previously been demonstrated empirically within any wildlife-livestock disease system. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using recently-developed proximity data loggers, we quantify both intra-and interspecific contacts in a wildlife-livestock disease system, using bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers and cattle in the UK as our example. We assess the connectedness of individuals within the networks in order to identify whether there are certain ‘high-risk’ individuals or groups of individuals for disease transmission within and between species. Our results show that contact patterns in both badger and cattle populations vary widely, both between individuals and over time. We recorded only infrequent interactions between badger social groups, although all badgers fitted with data loggers were involved in these inter-group contacts. Contacts between badgers and cattle occurred more frequently than contacts between different badger groups. Moreover, these inter-specific contacts involved those individual cows, which were highly connected within the cattle herd. Conclusions/Significance: This work represents the first continuous time record of wildlife-host contacts for any free-living wildlife-livestock disease system. The results highlight the existence of specific individuals with relatively high contact rates in both livestock and wildlife populations, which have the potential to act as hubs in the spread of disease through complex contact networks. Targeting testing or preventive measures at high-contact groups and individuals within livestock populations would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of disease management strategies.",
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Contact networks in a wildlife-livestock host community: identifying high-risk individuals in the transmission of bovine TB among badgers and cattle. / Bohm, M; Hutchings, MR; White, PCL.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 4(4), No. e5016, 2009, p. 1 - 12.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Contact networks in a wildlife-livestock host community: identifying high-risk individuals in the transmission of bovine TB among badgers and cattle

AU - Bohm, M

AU - Hutchings, MR

AU - White, PCL

PY - 2009

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N2 - Background: The management of many pathogens, which are of concern to humans and their livestock, is complicated by the pathogens’ ability to cross-infect multiple host species, including wildlife. This has major implications for the management of such diseases, since the dynamics of infection are dependent on the rates of both intra- and inter-specific transmission. However, the difficulty of studying transmission networks in free-living populations means that the relative opportunities for intra- versus inter-specific disease transmission have not previously been demonstrated empirically within any wildlife-livestock disease system. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using recently-developed proximity data loggers, we quantify both intra-and interspecific contacts in a wildlife-livestock disease system, using bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers and cattle in the UK as our example. We assess the connectedness of individuals within the networks in order to identify whether there are certain ‘high-risk’ individuals or groups of individuals for disease transmission within and between species. Our results show that contact patterns in both badger and cattle populations vary widely, both between individuals and over time. We recorded only infrequent interactions between badger social groups, although all badgers fitted with data loggers were involved in these inter-group contacts. Contacts between badgers and cattle occurred more frequently than contacts between different badger groups. Moreover, these inter-specific contacts involved those individual cows, which were highly connected within the cattle herd. Conclusions/Significance: This work represents the first continuous time record of wildlife-host contacts for any free-living wildlife-livestock disease system. The results highlight the existence of specific individuals with relatively high contact rates in both livestock and wildlife populations, which have the potential to act as hubs in the spread of disease through complex contact networks. Targeting testing or preventive measures at high-contact groups and individuals within livestock populations would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of disease management strategies.

AB - Background: The management of many pathogens, which are of concern to humans and their livestock, is complicated by the pathogens’ ability to cross-infect multiple host species, including wildlife. This has major implications for the management of such diseases, since the dynamics of infection are dependent on the rates of both intra- and inter-specific transmission. However, the difficulty of studying transmission networks in free-living populations means that the relative opportunities for intra- versus inter-specific disease transmission have not previously been demonstrated empirically within any wildlife-livestock disease system. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using recently-developed proximity data loggers, we quantify both intra-and interspecific contacts in a wildlife-livestock disease system, using bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers and cattle in the UK as our example. We assess the connectedness of individuals within the networks in order to identify whether there are certain ‘high-risk’ individuals or groups of individuals for disease transmission within and between species. Our results show that contact patterns in both badger and cattle populations vary widely, both between individuals and over time. We recorded only infrequent interactions between badger social groups, although all badgers fitted with data loggers were involved in these inter-group contacts. Contacts between badgers and cattle occurred more frequently than contacts between different badger groups. Moreover, these inter-specific contacts involved those individual cows, which were highly connected within the cattle herd. Conclusions/Significance: This work represents the first continuous time record of wildlife-host contacts for any free-living wildlife-livestock disease system. The results highlight the existence of specific individuals with relatively high contact rates in both livestock and wildlife populations, which have the potential to act as hubs in the spread of disease through complex contact networks. Targeting testing or preventive measures at high-contact groups and individuals within livestock populations would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of disease management strategies.

KW - Badgers

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KW - Infectious disease control

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KW - Veterinary diseases

KW - Wildlife

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DO - http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005016

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JO - PLoS ONE

JF - PLoS ONE

SN - 1932-6203

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